ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Education Council is investigating claims made by the father of a six-year-old autistic boy who he alleged was whipped on the arm by a teacher at Abu Dhabi International (Pvt) School last week.
The father, Anwar Alawadhi, said on Monday that he had no option but to keep the boy at the school, despite his allegations and concerns.
“I can’t do anything,” he said. “I’ve been trying for almost three years to get my son into any rehabilitation centre or school. All I keep hearing is ‘waiting list’.”
Mr Alawadhi’s son, Mansour, is only slightly autistic and, according to the school, very intelligent.
This keeps him from having priority for rehabilitation centres, but since he also requires a shadow teacher, most “regular” schools will not take him either.
Mr Alawadhi, an Emirati, also wants his son to be registered at a school, rather than a speciality centre, in the hopes that Mansour will one day be mainstreamed at a Government school.
“I don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve gone to every school in Abu Dhabi but no one will take him. I want my son to learn. He is growing up and is very smart. I have no choice but to keep him at his school.”
Dr Maryam Al Ali, policy and planning section head of the private schools and quality and assurance sector at Adec, said that as of last year, all schools should have installed cameras in hallways and corridors. Cameras inside classrooms and bathrooms are not allowed.
In a meeting with school officials last week Mr Alawadhi had requested cameras in the classrooms.
“Our priority is always our children,” Dr Al Ali said. “Children are a gift from God. Their safety is the most important thing. We are investigating the parent’s complaint and if we find the school at fault legal action will be taken.”
If proven, such abuses would lead to the expulsion of the teacher involved and a warning letter to the school.
Jihan Nasr, superintendent at Abu Dhabi International (Pvt) School, insisted the school had done nothing wrong.
“We have conducted our investigations and found that Mansour was not beaten at school. This did not happen at our school.”
Dr Al Ali faulted the school for not alerting the education council after Mr Alawadhi complained.
“If there is a complaint that a child has been beaten at school then the school has to inform the council,” she said.
Parents should also contact the council if they suspect abuse at school.
Schools are also supposed to report bruises or injuries to children regardless of where they occurred.
Despite the ongoing investigation, Mr Alawadhi has complained that the police have not begun an investigation.
“I filed a complaint on Saturday and so far nothing. I want justice for my son and the teacher who hit him expelled. There are many children with disabilities at the school. If she did this with my son, imagine what she is doing for the other children who can’t speak for themselves.
“The school did not tell me that they saw a bruise on Mansour and only did so after I complained.”
Dr Al Ali said that this was the first complaint she had received of a special needs child being abused at school.
“We are investigating this and we contacted the school as soon as we heard, even though the father failed to contact us when he first suspected that his son was beaten.”
Dr Al Ali agreed that there was a need in the emirate for more special education classes.
“There is a shortage and we are moving towards solving this problem. We need more special education classes as well as professionals to teach and assist in the classrooms.”
She said that the West had made tremendous strides in caring for children with special needs and disabilities.
“The UAE is a fairly young country but we are moving forward and have already making progress, but there needs to be more,” she said.